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1.  Rapid and gradual modes of aerosol trace metal dissolution in seawater 
Atmospheric deposition is a major source of trace metals in marine surface waters and supplies vital micronutrients to phytoplankton, yet measured aerosol trace metal solubility values are operationally defined, and there are relatively few multi-element studies on aerosol-metal solubility in seawater. Here we measure the solubility of aluminum (Al), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn) from natural aerosol samples in seawater over a 7 days period to (1) evaluate the role of extraction time in trace metal dissolution behavior and (2) explore how the individual dissolution patterns could influence biota. Dissolution behavior occurs over a continuum ranging from rapid dissolution, in which the majority of soluble metal dissolved immediately upon seawater exposure (Cd and Co in our samples), to gradual dissolution, where metals dissolved slowly over time (Zn, Mn, Cu, and Al in our samples). Additionally, dissolution affected by interactions with particles was observed in which a decline in soluble metal concentration over time occurred (Fe and Pb in our samples). Natural variability in aerosol chemistry between samples can cause metals to display different dissolution kinetics in different samples, and this was particularly evident for Ni, for which samples showed a broad range of dissolution rates. The elemental molar ratio of metals in the bulk aerosols was 23,189Fe: 22,651Al: 445Mn: 348Zn: 71Cu: 48Ni: 23Pb: 9Co: 1Cd, whereas the seawater soluble molar ratio after 7 days of leaching was 11Fe: 620Al: 205Mn: 240Zn: 20Cu: 14Ni: 9Pb: 2Co: 1Cd. The different kinetics and ratios of aerosol metal dissolution have implications for phytoplankton nutrition, and highlight the need for unified extraction protocols that simulate aerosol metal dissolution in the surface ocean.
PMCID: PMC4301189  PMID: 25653645
aerosols; atmospheric deposition; phytoplankton; trace metals; ligands
2.  Proteomic responses of oceanic Synechococcus WH8102 to phosphate and zinc scarcity and cadmium additions 
Synechococcus sp. WH 8102 is a motile marine cyanobacterium isolated originally from the Sargasso Sea. To test the response of this organism to cadmium (Cd), generally considered a toxin, cultures were grown in a matrix of high and low zinc (Zn) and phosphate (PO43−) and were then exposed to an addition of 4.4 pM free Cd2+ at mid-log phase and harvested after 24 h. Whereas Zn and PO43− had little effect on overall growth rates, in the final 24 h of the experiment three growth effects were noticed: (i) low PO43− treatments showed increased growth rates relative to high PO43− treatments, (ii) the Zn/high PO43− treatment appeared to enter stationary phase, and (iii) Cd increased growth rates further in both the low PO43− and Zn treatments. Global proteomic analysis revealed that: (i) Zn appeared to be critical to the PO43− response in this organism, (ii) bacterial metallothionein (SmtA) appears correlated with PO43− stress-associated proteins, (iii) Cd has the greatest influence on the proteome at low PO43− and Zn, (iv) Zn buffered the effects of Cd, and (v) in the presence of both replete PO43− and added Cd the proteome showed little response to the presence of Zn. Similar trends in alkaline phosphate (ALP) and SmtA suggest the possibility of a Zn supply system to provide Zn to ALP that involves SmtA. In addition, proteome results were consistent with a previous transcriptome study of PO43− stress (with replete Zn) in this organism, including the greater relative abundance of ALP (PhoA), ABC phosphate binding protein (PstS) and other proteins. Yet with no Zn in this proteome experiment the PO43− response was quite different including the greater relative abundance of five hypothetical proteins with no increase in PhoA or PstS, suggesting that Zn nutritional levels are connected to the PO43− response in this cyanobacterium. Alternate ALP PhoX (Ca) was found to be a low abundance protein, suggesting that PhoA (Zn, Mg) may be more environmentally relevant than PhoX.
PMCID: PMC3865332  PMID: 24381569
cyanobacteria; Synechococcus; zinc; cadmium; phosphate stress; proteome; metallothionein; alkaline phosphatase
3.  Dissolved and particulate trace metal micronutrients under the McMurdo Sound seasonal sea ice: basal sea ice communities as a capacitor for iron 
Dissolved and particulate metal concentrations are reported from three sites beneath and at the base of the McMurdo Sound seasonal sea ice in the Ross Sea of Antarctica. This dataset provided insight into Co and Mn biogeochemistry, supporting a previous hypothesis for water column mixing occurring faster than scavenging. Three observations support this: first, Mn-containing particles with Mn/Al ratios in excess of the sediment were present in the water column, implying the presence of bacterial Mn-oxidation processes. Second, dissolved and labile Co were uniform with depth beneath the sea ice after the winter season. Third, dissolved Co:PO3−4 ratios were consistent with previously observed Ross Sea stoichiometry, implying that over-winter scavenging was slow relative to mixing. Abundant dissolved Fe and Mn were consistent with a winter reserve concept, and particulate Al, Fe, Mn, and Co covaried, implying that these metals behaved similarly. Elevated particulate metals were observed in proximity to the nearby Islands, with particulate Fe/Al ratios similar to that of nearby sediment, consistent with a sediment resuspension source. Dissolved and particulate metals were elevated at the shallowest depths (particularly Fe) with elevated particulate P/Al and Fe/Al ratios in excess of sediments, demonstrating a sea ice biomass source. The sea ice biomass was extremely dense (chl a >9500 μg/L) and contained high abundances of particulate metals with elevated metal/Al ratios. A hypothesis for seasonal accumulation of bioactive metals at the base of the McMurdo Sound sea ice by the basal algal community is presented, analogous to a capacitor that accumulates iron during the spring and early summer. The release and transport of particulate metals accumulated at the base of the sea ice by sloughing is discussed as a potentially important mechanism in providing iron nutrition during polynya phytoplankton bloom formation and could be examined in future oceanographic expeditions.
PMCID: PMC3982526  PMID: 24790953
Ross Sea; trace metals; cobalt; iron; manganese; sea ice; Antarctica; biogeochemical cycling
4.  Identifying reference genes with stable expression from high throughput sequence data 
Genes that are constitutively expressed across multiple environmental stimuli are crucial to quantifying differentially expressed genes, particularly when employing quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) assays. However, the identification of these potential reference genes in non-model organisms is challenging and is often guided by expression patterns in distantly related organisms. Here, transcriptome datasets from the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana grown under replete, phosphorus-limited, iron-limited, and phosphorus and iron co-limited nutrient regimes were analyzed through literature-based searches for homologous reference genes, k-means clustering, and analysis of sequence counts (ASC) to identify putative reference genes. A total of 9759 genes were identified and screened for stable expression. Literature-based searches surveyed 18 generally accepted reference genes, revealing 101 homologs in T. pseudonana with variable expression and a wide range of mean tags per million. k-means analysis parsed the whole transcriptome into 15 clusters. The two most stable clusters contained 709 genes, but still had distinct patterns in expression. ASC analyses identified 179 genes that were stably expressed (posterior probability < 0.1 for 1.25 fold change). Genes known to have a stable expression pattern across the test treatments, like actin, were identified in this pool of 179 candidate genes. ASC can be employed on data without biological replicates and was more robust than the k-means approach in isolating genes with stable expression. The intersection of the genes identified through ASC with commonly used reference genes from the literature suggests that actin and ubiquitin ligase may be useful reference genes for T. pseudonana and potentially other diatoms. With the wealth of transcriptome sequence data becoming available, ASC can be easily applied to transcriptome datasets from other phytoplankton to identify reference genes.
PMCID: PMC3494082  PMID: 23162540
Thalassiosira pseudonana; diatom; phytoplankton; housekeeping genes; RT-qPCR; transcriptome; relative gene expression; reference gene
5.  Transcriptome response of high- and low-light-adapted Prochlorococcus strains to changing iron availability 
The ISME Journal  2011;5(10):1580-1594.
Prochlorococcus contributes significantly to ocean primary productivity. The link between primary productivity and iron in specific ocean regions is well established and iron limitation of Prochlorococcus cell division rates in these regions has been shown. However, the extent of ecotypic variation in iron metabolism among Prochlorococcus and the molecular basis for differences is not understood. Here, we examine the growth and transcriptional response of Prochlorococcus strains, MED4 and MIT9313, to changing iron concentrations. During steady state, MIT9313 sustains growth at an order-of-magnitude lower iron concentration than MED4. To explore this difference, we measured the whole-genome transcriptional response of each strain to abrupt iron starvation and rescue. Only four of the 1159 orthologs of MED4 and MIT9313 were differentially expressed in response to iron in both strains. However, in each strain, the expression of over a hundred additional genes changed, many of which are in labile genomic regions, suggesting a role for lateral gene transfer in establishing diversity of iron metabolism among Prochlorococcus. Furthermore, we found that MED4 lacks three genes near the iron-deficiency-induced gene (idiA) that are present and induced by iron stress in MIT9313. These genes are interesting targets for studying the adaptation of natural Prochlorococcus assemblages to local iron conditions as they show more diversity than other genomic regions in environmental metagenomic databases.
PMCID: PMC3176520  PMID: 21562599
cyanobacteria; iron; transcriptome
6.  The Transcriptome and Proteome of the Diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana Reveal a Diverse Phosphorus Stress Response 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33768.
Phosphorus (P) is a critical driver of phytoplankton growth and ecosystem function in the ocean. Diatoms are an abundant class of marine phytoplankton that are responsible for significant amounts of primary production. With the control they exert on the oceanic carbon cycle, there have been a number of studies focused on how diatoms respond to limiting macro and micronutrients such as iron and nitrogen. However, diatom physiological responses to P deficiency are poorly understood. Here, we couple deep sequencing of transcript tags and quantitative proteomics to analyze the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana grown under P-replete and P-deficient conditions. A total of 318 transcripts were differentially regulated with a false discovery rate of <0.05, and a total of 136 proteins were differentially abundant (p<0.05). Significant changes in the abundance of transcripts and proteins were observed and coordinated for multiple biochemical pathways, including glycolysis and translation. Patterns in transcript and protein abundance were also linked to physiological changes in cellular P distributions, and enzyme activities. These data demonstrate that diatom P deficiency results in changes in cellular P allocation through polyphosphate production, increased P transport, a switch to utilization of dissolved organic P through increased production of metalloenzymes, and a remodeling of the cell surface through production of sulfolipids. Together, these findings reveal that T. pseudonana has evolved a sophisticated response to P deficiency involving multiple biochemical strategies that are likely critical to its ability to respond to variations in environmental P availability.
PMCID: PMC3315573  PMID: 22479440
7.  Proteome Changes Driven by Phosphorus Deficiency and Recovery in the Brown Tide-Forming Alga Aureococcus anophagefferens 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28949.
Shotgun mass spectrometry was used to detect proteins in the harmful alga, Aureococcus anophagefferens, and monitor their relative abundance across nutrient replete (control), phosphate-deficient (−P) and −P refed with phosphate (P-refed) conditions. Spectral counting techniques identified differentially abundant proteins and demonstrated that under phosphate deficiency, A. anophagefferens increases proteins involved in both inorganic and organic phosphorus (P) scavenging, including a phosphate transporter, 5′-nucleotidase, and alkaline phosphatase. Additionally, an increase in abundance of a sulfolipid biosynthesis protein was detected in −P and P-refed conditions. Analysis of the polar membrane lipids showed that cellular concentrations of the sulfolipid sulphoquinovosyldiacylglycerol (SQDG) were nearly two-fold greater in the −P condition versus the control condition, while cellular phospholipids were approximately 8-fold less. Transcript and protein abundances were more tightly coupled for gene products involved in P metabolism compared to those involved in a range of other metabolic functions. Comparison of protein abundances between the −P and P-refed conditions identified differences in the timing of protein degradation and turnover. This suggests that culture studies examining nutrient starvation responses will be valuable in interpreting protein abundance patterns for cellular nutritional status and history in metaproteomic datasets.
PMCID: PMC3237563  PMID: 22194955
8.  Examination of Microbial Proteome Preservation Techniques Applicable to Autonomous Environmental Sample Collection 
Improvements in temporal and spatial sampling frequency have the potential to open new windows into the understanding of marine microbial dynamics. In recent years, efforts have been made to allow automated samplers to collect microbial biomass for DNA/RNA analyses from moored observatories and autonomous underwater vehicles. Measurements of microbial proteins are also of significant interest given their biogeochemical importance as enzymes that catalyze reactions and transporters that interface with the environment. We examined the influence of five preservatives solutions (SDS-extraction buffer, ethanol, trichloroacetic acid, B-PER, and RNAlater) on the proteome integrity of the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus WH8102 after 4 weeks of storage at room temperature. Four approaches were used to assess degradation: total protein recovery, band integrity on an SDS detergent polyacrylamide electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) gel, and number of protein identifications and relative abundances by 1-dimensional LC–MS/MS proteomic analyses. Total protein recoveries from the preserved samples were lower than the frozen control due to processing losses, which could be corrected for with internal standardization. The trichloroacetic acid preserved sample showed significant loss of protein band integrity on the SDS-PAGE gel. The RNAlater preserved sample showed the highest number of protein identifications (103% relative to the control; 520 ± 31 identifications in RNAlater versus 504 ± 4 in the control), equivalent to the frozen control. Relative abundances of individual proteins in the RNAlater treatment were quite similar to that of the frozen control (average ratio of 1.01 ± 0.27 for the 50 most abundant proteins), while the SDS-extraction buffer, ethanol, and B-PER all showed significant decreases in both number of identifications and relative abundances of individual proteins. Based on these findings, RNAlater was an effective proteome preservative, although further study is warranted on additional marine microbes.
PMCID: PMC3209654  PMID: 22069397
proteome; preservation; autonomous sampling; cyanobacteria; alkaline phosphatase; proteomics; Synechococcus WH8102
9.  Iron Limitation of a Springtime Bacterial and Phytoplankton Community in the Ross Sea: Implications for Vitamin B12 Nutrition 
The Ross Sea is home to some of the largest phytoplankton blooms in the Southern Ocean. Primary production in this system has previously been shown to be iron limited in the summer and periodically iron and vitamin B12 colimited. In this study, we examined trace metal limitation of biological activity in the Ross Sea in the austral spring and considered possible implications for vitamin B12 nutrition. Bottle incubation experiments demonstrated that iron limited phytoplankton growth in the austral spring while B12, cobalt, and zinc did not. This is the first demonstration of iron limitation in a Phaeocystis antarctica-dominated, early season Ross Sea phytoplankton community. The lack of B12 limitation in this location is consistent with previous Ross Sea studies in the austral summer, wherein vitamin additions did not stimulate P. antarctica growth and B12 was limiting only when bacterial abundance was low. Bottle incubation experiments and a bacterial regrowth experiment also revealed that iron addition directly enhanced bacterial growth. B12 uptake measurements in natural water samples and in an iron fertilized bottle incubation demonstrated that bacteria serve not only as a source for vitamin B12, but also as a significant sink, and that iron additions enhanced B12 uptake rates in phytoplankton but not bacteria. Additionally, vitamin uptake rates did not become saturated upon the addition of up to 95 pM B12. A rapid B12 uptake rate was observed after 13 min, which then decreased to a slower constant uptake rate over the next 52 h. Results from this study highlight the importance of iron availability in limiting early season Ross Sea phytoplankton growth and suggest that rates of vitamin B12 production and consumption may be impacted by iron availability.
PMCID: PMC3155878  PMID: 21886638
iron limitation; vitamin B12; Ross Sea; colimitation; bacteria; phytoplankton; iron fertilization
10.  Empirical bayes analysis of sequencing-based transcriptional profiling without replicates 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:564.
Recent technological advancements have made high throughput sequencing an increasingly popular approach for transcriptome analysis. Advantages of sequencing-based transcriptional profiling over microarrays have been reported, including lower technical variability. However, advances in technology do not remove biological variation between replicates and this variation is often neglected in many analyses.
We propose an empirical Bayes method, titled Analysis of Sequence Counts (ASC), to detect differential expression based on sequencing technology. ASC borrows information across sequences to establish prior distribution of sample variation, so that biological variation can be accounted for even when replicates are not available. Compared to current approaches that simply tests for equality of proportions in two samples, ASC is less biased towards highly expressed sequences and can identify more genes with a greater log fold change at lower overall abundance.
ASC unifies the biological and statistical significance of differential expression by estimating the posterior mean of log fold change and estimating false discovery rates based on the posterior mean. The implementation in R is available at
PMCID: PMC3098101  PMID: 21080965
11.  Sulfide Ameliorates Metal Toxicity for Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Archaea†  
The chemical stress factors for microbial life at deep-sea hydrothermal vents include high concentrations of heavy metals and sulfide. Three hyperthermophilic vent archaea, the sulfur-reducing heterotrophs Thermococcus fumicolans and Pyrococcus strain GB-D and the chemolithoautotrophic methanogen Methanocaldococcus jannaschii, were tested for survival tolerance to heavy metals (Zn, Co, and Cu) and sulfide. The sulfide addition consistently ameliorated the high toxicity of free metal cations by the formation of dissolved metal-sulfide complexes as well as solid precipitates. Thus, chemical speciation of heavy metals with sulfide allows hydrothermal vent archaea to tolerate otherwise toxic metal concentrations in their natural environment.
PMCID: PMC383022  PMID: 15066859

Results 1-11 (11)